My orderly mind compelled me to replay the first two Luigi’s Mansion titles before moving on to the most recent one, Luigi’s Mansion 3 (which I’d been anticipating for Christmas). In 2013, it seemed like an odd choice for Nintendo to develop a handheld sequel to a 12-year-old console game, but here we are six years later. I remember particularly enjoying Dark Moon on my first go-around with its more puzzle-oriented style, but, alas, opinions can unfortunately change. I regret to inform you that Dark Moon is a disappointing sequel to one of Nintendo’s most unique titles.
Dark Moon’s greatest downfall lies in its babied-down presentation. Nintendo seems to think that 12 years later, their audience has somehow grown younger and dumber, and this blemish regrettably applies to more than just one factor within the game. The most significant one to mention first is its structure.
The first Luigi’s Mansion was divided into four, lengthy areas with save opportunities in between. Dark Moon has five different haunted locations for Luigi to explore, and the gameplay is now divided into missions, which is where this game immediately begins to fracture.
The “mission” format inherently impairs the game before you are even able to realize it. Through some drastically clumsy gameplay it starts to become apparent that the whole game is going to be like its opening levels which are distractingly expository and slow. While this is partly false, it remains mostly true up until the final few missions where the intensity exponentially rises. You seriously cannot go a few minutes in this game without Professor E. Gadd filling you in on your next task, which only happened in the first title at important moments.
In this game, the instructions are so obvious I swear it was aimed at the same age group that watches Sesame Street. If you thought the dictated linearity was bad in Luigi’s Mansion, Dark Moon manages to be worse. It wasn’t until the final location (Treacherous Mansion) where it truly felt like a free-to-roam adventure. The other four locations should have been designed like the last one.
The areas in which this game shines are ones that had already been previously accomplished by the first entry. Catching ghosts is still thrilling with the also-still-great controls, but has been moderately dumbed down as well. Dark Moon is most fun when the room is packed with ghosts, especially of various types: a difficult but exciting challenge. The ghosts are less hostile on their own, though; therefore, the thrill isn’t met until more than one shows up.
Discovering secrets is also one of the still-stronger aspects of Dark Moon. As far as I can remember, every single gem is uncovered in its own unique fashion. My only gripe with a few of them is how they can’t be discovered in later missions. Depending on the mission, the game won’t allow you to access previously explored areas, forcing you to replay the entire mission where you do have access, even if it’s just for one measly gem.
If you couldn’t already tell, I have fluctuating feelings on just about every aspect of this game, and it couldn’t be more accurate with how I feel on the map designs. While they’re constructed almost as well as the predecessor (there are a few wasted rooms/corridors) with its tightly hidden secrets, I can’t help but think they are somewhat put to waste because of this game’s unbearable linearity. Memorizing the mansion design with its little intricacies was a worthy skill in the first entry and made it better for replay value, but it isn’t much use in Dark Moon.
On the other hand, one aspect I can fully appreciate about this game is its aesthetic. Nintendo never fails in this department. The spooky but cartoony music and visuals compliment each other extremely well and that touch never once diminishes throughout the game.
Dark Moon is overall a mixed bag. While Luigi’s Mansion felt closer to a run-and-gun than anything, Dark Moon nearly squandered the chaos and discovery that the first game contained. Very few of its missions stick out, with a few occasional duds (I’m looking at you, Polterpup), and just about every aspect is dumbed down, with the exception of its last exhilarating segment.